Angul is famous for shadow puppet dance (RAVAN CHHAYA).
The tradition of shadow puppet theatre in India is very old and
thrives only in the States of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnatak,
Tamilnadu, Kerala and Maharastra. Each State has its peculiar design,
style, colour-scheme and manipulation technique.
The shadow-puppet theatre of Odisha is known as Ravan Chhaya. It is titled thus because, the Chhaya or shadow is considered inauspicious and is therefore related to the character of Ravan who is equated with evil. Among all the styles of India it is the simplest with no colour, and almost no dance or fight sequences. With simple movements, the full unjointed figures depict versions of the Bichitra Ramayana. Accompanied by Khanjani (a tambourine variety of instrument) and cymbals, the musicians sing standing in front of the screen. Though most of the puppet figures are made out of deer skin, those of demoniac characters are made from stag skin. Each puppet is fixed with a thin rod of bamboo for manipulation from behind the white curtain. The light is provided by a large earthen lamp fed with castor oil.
The tradition performers of Ravan Chhaya were from the community of Bhats who received the patronage of the local Rajas of Pallahara in shape of land grants. When all other Bhats discontinued their profession, the only Guru who kept it alive was Kathinanda Das. He received the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1980 and passed away in 1987. Sensing the apathy of his community towards the art Kathinanda inducted disciples from other communities, Shri Kolha Charan Sahu, his senior most disciple has now kept alive the tradition through the institute `Ravan-Chhaya Natya Sansad".
The Sansad, a registered cultural society has devoted itself for the
preservation and promotion of the rare-act. It maintains a full
repertory group of performances and imparts training to youngsters in
puppet-making, manipulation technique and music. It has put up a
number of performances all over the State and cities like New Delhi,
Kolkata, Bangalore etc, where performances have been highly
The repertory group now performs with two sets of puppets, the first which are designed and cut according to the old traditional style and the second with the puppets designed and cut on the model of traditional pata painting of Puri.
"Ravan Chhaya" is the unique shadow puppet dance of Angul & Odisha.